A Card Game, A Control Freak, and Being a Martha…

I have a confession to make.

I play Solitaire on my laptop. In this day and time, in a world filled with social media and “Candy Crush,” (is that still a thing?), my game of choice is old fashioned Solitaire.

And to add to this slightly embarrassing admission, I have found a way of improving my odds of winning…

There’s an option called “winnable only,” and that’s my mode of choice. If I were ever to win a Solitaire championship (and please tell me there’s no such thing), in the annuls of winners, I would have an asterisk by my name. And it would also probably include that “She did it the easy way.”

You could spend many hours analyzing this (if you were truly bored and actually cared that I play only winnable games of Solitaire). I, myself, have analyzed this for weeks. I’ve found some parallels with this, and the way I’ve been living, and it’s opened me up to many lessons, as well as the motivation to change.

First of all, (and this is the most obvious reason I skew the outcomes), it makes it easier to feel like a winner—like I’ve been successful at something. A controlled outcome.

As a counselor, I try to “fix” things. Things I know I can never fix. It’s in my blood. I want to help make others’ lives better. But, as everyone knows, other people can’t fix your problems. It’s up to individuals to find ways to deal with adversity, change their attitudes, and work to improve their outcomes. My job is to provide the tools, to help build self-esteem, to believe in others, and to encourage them to try to be their best every single day. Even if most days are bad ones.

Playing “winnable Solitaire,” is a way I control the odds. It guarantees that the game is winnable, and thus, gives me hope.

But you know what? Just because the game is winnable doesn’t mean you will win! In fact, of late, I’ve been losing more games than I win. Seriously. There are options and choices at each turn, and one decision can move the outcome to the loss column.

Playing winnable Solitaire is safe, less frustrating, and hopeful. All things that I want in my life—-to be safe and secure in my family, my job, my friendships, and faith. To lessen irritation, frustration, and roadblocks. And to have hope that things will go my way.

But the “winnable only” option doesn’t guarantee anything. Just like life.

As I’ve overthought Solitaire, and life, I’ve concluded some very important things about myself. Things I’ve known, and things I have struggled to change.

I’m a control freak. Plain and simple. I feel that organization, and preparation, and routines are all keys to success. For me, having a clean house, where I can find things when I need them is mandatory. I haven’t completely mastered this, but it is a goal that I hope will come to fruition this summer. At least the organization part.

As far as being prepared, I think it goes along with organization. Life is so much easier when these twin traits (at least for me) are a part of my daily grind.

I am a list-maker. Checking off things I’ve accomplished brings me great joy. I feel triumphant and stress-free (until I can’t find my keys because they are hidden under the complete disaster that resides in my purse!)

In my mind, being organized and prepared are things that everyone strives for. I’ve always thought that was a given, since it’s so much a part of who I am. Over the years, I have realized not all people are geared that way. There are many people who wake up each day and simply react to the things that occur. They don’t have a plan. They don’t have a list. They don’t play winnable Solitaire.

And you know what. They seem happy. They aren’t a mess, struggling to complete tasks. They are successful in their lives, and seem to be filled with a relaxed kind of joy. Something that I long for. Complete joy, free of worry. Free of manipulated outcomes.

The example I’m going to use to bring this home is from the Bible. The story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. I’m sure most of you know about these two. In fact you’ve probably determined which sister you are most like—-are you a Mary or a Martha?

Before I continue, here’s their story:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Here’s another confession. When I read this today, I automatically heard, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha,” instead of the name “Martha,” (due to my complete obsession with the “Brady Bunch” throughout my elementary years).

But I digress.

The last few weeks, I have pondered many things. I’ve had several ideas to write about in my blog, and everything kept coming back to “winnable Solitaire.” I couldn’t figure out why, and I have searched, and over-exercised my brain trying to find some wisdom, parallels, or lessons that could help me understand my overly emotional state the last month or so.

In case you haven’t already figured out which sister I am, I’m Martha. I love to entertain, but I get bogged down in the work, and the planning, and the preparation, and organization. I take complete control, and try to control the outcome. Even trying to control if it’s fun! I always think of a quote from Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory”:

“They do fun wrong.”

You know what? I’m the one who does fun wrong. I want gatherings to be perfect. I try to do everything myself, but then when I’m tired and exhausted, I complain about the lack of help I received. I’m definitely not “the hostess with the most-ess.”

But I am a worker. I believe if you work hard you can achieve almost anything. I grew up in a family with a strong work ethic, and I have hopefully passed that on to my two sons. However, I do hope that they don’t have the same attitude, or need for control that I have developed over the years.

Parenting is hard. And so is life.

I think that’s why I am constantly wanting to solicit advice, or opinions to my grown-up kids. I want them to not struggle. I want them to have less stress. I want to pass along important lessons I’ve learned to help make their lives better. I want them to be successful, and hard-working and responsible (which they are).

But I also want them, more than anything else, to be joyful. I want them to see the good in people. I want them to love fiercely, and enjoy time with family and friends. I want them to have dreams. I want them to be hopeful.

I’ve realized that by sharing my experiences, and doing things for them rather than just letting them experience the hardships of life, I am controlling an outcome.

I’m inadvertently teaching them to play “winnable Solitaire.”

And that’s not the way to live life…

I pray my children are confident, yet humble. I pray they aren’t afraid to take risks, but hope they always pray about every situation and decision.

I want them to spend their time well.

And most of all, I want them to sit at the feet of Jesus, and listen, rather than being in the kitchen, or mowing the yard, or busying themselves with non-eternal things. Things that won’t matter in the end.

So, as I enter the 12 Step Program for relinquishing my need to control the outcomes of my life, I am happy to report that the first thing I’ve checked off my list this morning is clicking on “random shuffle” when I played my game(s).

This, of course, was research for writing the blog 😉

I am happy to report that as I let the cards fall where they may, I won more games than I lost. I took a chance, and left out the sense of control, and the crutch of manipulating the outcome.

And most importantly, I still had hope. You see, by practicing, and being prepared, I used the skills I had honed and the confidence I had gained, and I won. Fair and square. And the times that I lost made me want to try harder, and not give up. I knew that I might not win the next game, or the one after that, but at some point I would be victorious.

And that’s how I hope to live life. I want to keep trying, and working, running toward that prize, knowing that with the Lord as my Savior, victory will be mine.

So as I try to live more in the moment, and less in my control-freak world, my hope for you, my readers, is that you live a life filled with joy, and faith. That you give up on trying to control the things you can’t. I pray your faith in God increases, as well as your love for others.

And I pray that you never choose the “winnable only” option. For it’s in the defeats, and trials, and unexpected outcomes that you will learn the most.

So leave the dirty dishes in the sink, hug your kids, take your dog for a walk, and enjoy the sweet little moments of your life.

Remember Mary chose what was better, and it could never be taken away from her.

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